ERIC Identifier: ED381849
Publication Date: 1995-04-00
Author: Lines, Patricia M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Home Schooling. ERIC Digest, Number 95.
A small but growing number of school-aged children will not routinely spend
time in a school classroom this year. Instead, these children engage in HOME
SCHOOLING--that is, they will pursue learning at home or elsewhere in the
There is no one way to do it. One family may begin with opening ceremonies to
signal the start of the daily routine and follow a scheduled curriculum. Another
family may opt for child-led learning, where parents provide help as the child
expresses interest in a topic. Usually parents provide supervision and help, but
most children assume increasing responsibility for choosing and carrying out
projects as they mature.
Most families involved in home schooling organize activities with other
families. Some children spend part of their time at a local public or private
school, or a nearby college.
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF HOME SCHOOLING?
Schooling at home
was a necessity in an age when there were a limited number of schools. After
schools became universally available, some traditional groups, including the
Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, still elected to keep their younger
school-aged children at home. The Amish kept their older children out of public
schools, preferring to train them through life in the community.
In the 1970s, other families opted for home schooling, despite easy access to
schools. In the early stages of this contemporary movement, most were pursuing a
philosophy of child-led learning, as articulated by writers and educators such
as John Holt. Later, many families with strong religious convictions also turned
to home schooling.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE HOME SCHOOLED TODAY?
On any given
day, roughly half a million school-aged children are probably learning outside
of a school classroom. They make up about 1 percent of the total school-aged
population and almost 10 percent of the privately schooled population. This
estimate assumes modest growth since the fall of 1990, when data were collected
from three independent sources--those state education agencies (SEAs) that have
data; distributors of popular curricular packages; and memberships of supportive
associations. Since each source represents the tip of an iceberg, upward
adjustments were made based on surveys of home-schooling groups (Patricia Lines
Because many children are home schooled for only a few years, the percentage
of children who reach age 18 with some home-schooling experience will be larger
than 1 percent. Until a well-designed household survey is conducted, however, it
will be extremely difficult to estimate this percentage.
To estimate the number of children engaged in home schooling within its
borders, a state could begin with its own database, if it has one, then
supplement it with surveys to assess how many families file reports or other
papers required of home schoolers. States cannot assume 100 percent compliance
with filing requirements. If a state does not collect data, an assessment of
families who are members of state and regional associations could serve as a
IS HOME SCHOOLING LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL?
Today all state
compulsory-education laws explicitly make home schooling a valid option, or the
state interprets compulsory school-attendance laws to include "attendance" at a
"school" located at home. States have also liberalized requirements for the home
teacher. For example, parents do not need teaching certificates, and only
Michigan requires the involvement of a certified teacher. Even in Michigan,
however, court decisions have restricted the scope of this requirement.
With very few exceptions, all states require families to file basic
information with either the state or local education agency (SEA or LEA). Many
states have additional requirements, such as the submission of a curricular
plan, testing of students, or, less frequently, education or testing
requirements for parents.
In the past two decades, some states have charged parents with violating
compulsory-education laws. Parents have responded with lawsuits asserting a
constitutional right to direct the education of their children. Some courts have
stricken compulsory-education laws for being too vague or have found that more
restrictive regulations exceeded the state education agency's statutory
authority. Other courts have allowed prosecution of parents when their
educational program does not meet state requirements.
The United States Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled on home schooling,
but it did rule against compulsory school requirements in WISCONSIN V. YODER
(1972), a limited decision involving the Amish. More generally, it has also
upheld the right of parents to direct the education of their children.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO HOME SCHOOLERS?
like-minded families constitute a major resource for home schoolers. Local
support groups form whenever there are more than a handful of families pursuing
home schooling in a particular locale. There is at least one state-level
association in every state, and in some states there are a dozen or more
Other resources include libraries, museums, colleges, extension courses,
parks departments, churches, local businesses, mentors, private schools, and, in
some states, public schools. Books and other educational materials are also
important. Many private educational institutions offer curricular packages,
books, and other materials for use in home schooling.
Several states have innovative learning options. In Alaska, teachers in
Juneau work with students located all over the state, staying in touch by mail,
telephone, and through occasional home visits. In California, children can
enroll in an independent-study program through a public school then base their
studies in the home. Washington and Iowa require public schools to enroll
children on a part-time basis if they apply.
Some districts have organized education centers where families may obtain
resources, find instructional support, and/or sign up for scheduled classes.
Other states or districts also allow part-time enrollment, "shared schooling,"
"dual enrollment," or similar forms of part-time school attendance.
HOW WELL DO HOME-SCHOOLED CHILDREN PERFORM?
on whether home schooling is advantageous academically. Research has not
determined whether the SAME children would perform better or worse in a public
or private classroom, or in a home-schooling arrangement. Analyses of test
scores are available, based on data from states that require testing or from
home-schooling associations. Data from both sources may not be representative of
home schoolers as a whole, however, because not all families cooperate with
state testing requirements and private efforts rely on volunteers. Keeping these
caveats in mind, virtually all the available data show that the group of
home-schooled children who are tested is above average. The pattern for children
for whom data are available resembles that of children in private schools.
People also disagree about whether home schooling helps or hinders a child's
social development. Children engaged in home schooling spend less time with
same-aged children and more time with people of different ages. Most spend time
with other children through support and networking groups, scouting, churches,
and other associations. Many spend time with adults other than their parents
through community volunteer work, running their own businesses, tutoring or
mentoring arrangements, or other activities.
There is no conclusive research suggesting that additional time with
same-aged peers is preferable to more time with individuals of varying ages.
Limited testing of a self-selected group of home-schooled children suggested
above-average social and psychological development.
HOW DO PUBLIC EDUCATORS, POLICY-MAKERS, AND THE PUBLIC VIEW HOME SCHOOLING?
The practice of home schooling is controversial. The
national Parent-Teacher Association opposes the practice; in 1988, the National
Education Association adopted a resolution calling for more rigorous regulation
of home schooling. And the National Association of Elementary School Principals
has maintained that education is "most effectively done through cohesive
organizations in formal settings." Since 1983, it has condemned home-schooling
in its platform.
Other groups, such as the national American Civil Liberties Union, maintain
that parents have a constitutional right to educate their children at home.
Although they didn't necessarily approve of home schooling, a majority of
Americans responding to a Gallup poll nonetheless said parents have a right to
engage in home schooling. State legislatures agree, and many have amended their
laws to provide greater flexibility for home schooling.
Patricia Lines is a Senior Research Analyst with the National Institute on
Educational Governance, Finance, Policy-Making, and Management, OERI.
An expanded version of this ERIC digest is available in P. Lines,
"Homeschooling," in Private Education and Educational Choice, edited by James G.
Cibulka Greenwood Press, forthcoming. This version will contain more detailed
information on home-schooling associations and references.
Clark, Charles S. "Home Schooling," CQ RESEARCHER
4, 33 (September 9, 1994): 769-92.
Lines, Patricia. "Estimating the Home Schooled Population." Working Paper.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Research and
Improvement, October 1991. 20 pages. ED 337 903.
Mayberry, Maralee; Knowles, J. Gary; Ray, Brian; and Marlow, Stacey, HOME
SCHOOLING: PARENTS AS EDUCATORS. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 1995.
McCarthy, Martha. HOME SCHOOLING AND THE LAW. Policy Bulletin No. PB-B15.
Bloomington, Indiana: Education Policy Center, Indiana University, 1992. ED 349
VanGalen, Jane, and Pitman, Mary Anne, eds. HOME SCHOOLING: POLITICAL,
HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL PERSPECTIVES. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing